For Holiday Gifts, Think Armenia Tree
I cannot think of any gift, regardless of the time of year, than one that keeps on growing and benefiting Armenia and its citizens. Armenia Tree Project (ATP) offers such a memorial for people who wish to assist Armenia in the form of living trees. The beauty of the ATP package is that a tree is not sold and then forgotten. Each tree is handled with the TLC of a mother toward a child.
There are 70 full time employees and over 200 part-time employees in Armenia to ensure as best they know how that your investment in trees remains a living tribute to whatever or whoever it is you wish to honor. Additionally, in the US there is an ATP Executive Committee (Board) that has one purpose for existing—to ensure that the folks in Yerevan and the rest of Armenia have the wherewithal to keep that tree growing and producing its benefits.
In 2006, ATP planted an astonishing 720,000 seedlings. To date ATP has planted and rejuvenated nearly 1,500,000 trees, a figure that closely corresponds to the 1.5 million Armenians that died during the Genocide. This was a number that the “Board” decided upon about one year ago to honor the victims of 1915. But the 1.5 million trees are about those who died during 1915. That goal is met. But what about the 10,000,000 or so living Armenians around the world?
When 2015 rolls around, 100 years will have passed since the Turks decided to annihilate the Armenians. 2015 will be the ideal time to honor the resilience and devotion to the Armenian culture of the 10 million people that still proudly call themselves Armenians and who have assisted in numerous ways to ensure that Armenia will never disappear from history. Make no mistake about it, a country will disappear without trees. Who, after all, wants a desert for a homeland? It will be a huge task, but ATP thrives on challenges.
So how about helping ATP plant 10,000,000 trees by 2015? That is nine years away, eight years in January, to plant an additional 8.5 million trees. If ATP was able to plant 720,000 trees in 2006, with your financial assistance the organization can surely plant one tree for every living Armenian. Keep in mind that every tree is raised in Armenia from seed to mature trees (fruit as well as shade, forest). What a tribute to the living and those that are being born.
I recall the year 1992, when almost everything in Armenia was bleak. The universities had no heat, hotels were frigid, homes had ice coating interior walls as the women struggled to put together a decent meal for their families and, God bless them, their guests. I watched one man take his saw and approach a tree on the street. “You are not going to cut that tree?” I asked. “Surely,” he stated, “I have already burned my books and much of my furniture to keep my family warm and for my wife to cook food that we have.” Then he added, “But watch. I will not cut it down to the ground. I will trim the tree so that it will again sprout branches and grow. I will take care of it so that Armenia stays green.”
You may have read about illegal logging in Armenia. There are unsavory characters that cut large swaths of trees to sell for profit, some even to the Turks. Based on my experiences, these bandits are the exception. There are many more honest and caring Armenians that cultivate and nurture the greenery around their homes and in the forests. Even the folks in Yerevan (we’ll call them city dwellers) have tried against formidable odds to keep what trees and shrubs are available. Though many Armenians may not know the exact figures, most seem to know that close to 20 percent of Armenia was green as the 20th century dawned.
Folks realize that figure has dipped down to about eight percent. They are combating desertification by planting in their backyards and helping to re-establish forests. The people know that it is not just for beauty, but for the health of the citizens, children, and those yet to be born. The government is attempting to assist by outlawing the felling of trees. ATP is doing its share by assisting to get natural gas lines to areas so that trees will not be cut for heat, and by planting trees as rapidly as possible, and in the process putting citizens to work.
ATP stepped forward and helped to co-found a coalition of organizations whose aim is to stop illegal logging. ATP received a grant from Conservation International in Washington to partner with Yale University in developing a manual for sustainable forestry in Armenia. Hats off to the Mirak Family Reforestation Nursery in the Lori Region. It has established and is currently growing hundreds of thousands of trees for Armenia’s future. Working with ATP, many more nurseries of this nature can be established. ATP has two full-time nurseries but more are needed and with your financial assistance they can and will be established.
Education in forestry and tree growing is a vital part of the ATP program. When the average Armenians cut down trees they do not do so out of criminal intent. As with most humans, the felling of a tree is done by most people to satisfy a need. Unfortunately, little thought is given to replanting. ATP has taken on that task of educating the Armenian population to replant and to care for the forests. Information is being provided to educational institutes as early as the elementary schools on how to care for trees and greenery in Armenia.
Neither ATP nor the citizens of Armenia can do this work alone. ATP has the experienced and dedicated folks to help re-green Armenia. Funds are needed for education as well as developing seedlings that will one day blossom into mature growth. We all can help by giving a gift to ATP to plant trees in Armenia. The government is on board and has taken steps to help stop for good the illegal denuding of forests.
To help re-green Armenia contact Jeff Masarjian, Executive Director, Armenia Tree Project, 65 Main Street, Watertown, MA 02472, (617) 926-TREE (8733).
Help plant a tree in Armenia and then go there. Sit beneath its shade and enjoy khorovats (barbecued meat), with that great Armenian lavash. You can burn off some of the calories by contacting ATP in Yerevan on how and where to plant a tree.
[Moorad Mooradian is a member of ATP’s Executive
Committee. This article was published in the December 23, 2006 issues
of the Armenian Reporter and Armenian Mirror-Spectator newspapers.]